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February 25, 2012

Carnival of Space 238

1. Cosmic Log at MSNBC - NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory gets a great look at a partial solar eclipse from outer space, which serves as a preview for the sights we'll see on Earth later this year.



Carnival of Nuclear Energy 93

1. Idaho Samizdat - Small modular reactor vendors seek investors and customers. First they have to prove they can build one. This report, the 2nd in a series, looks at opportunities to develop prototypes at the Department of Energy's Savannah River site.












2. Science and Technology at Newsok has an article about Uranium Enrichment.

When carrying out uranium enrichment, there are many safety aspects unique to the radiological process which are present in addition to the expected industrial hazards of a factory setting. This includes the radioactive decay emissions of the uranium and its decay products. When uranium atoms undergo radioactive decay, they emit both gamma and alpha particle radiation. In doing so, the uranium atom loses a couple of protons and becomes a different element (thorium). This thorium decay product is also radioactive as are its decay products and so on. Eventually this decay chain results in the creation of a final lead atom with the alpha particles all becoming (very quickly) neutral helium atoms. The gamma radiation given off in this decay process does not tend to be extremely large due to the very long half life of uranium (which is measured in billions of years) and so very little of the uranium undergoes radioactive decay at any given time.

The enrichment process will increase the U235 content in the uranium hexafluoride by up to as much as 5% for commercial nuclear reactors. This means that by weight, 5% of the enriched uranium would be U235 as opposed to the natural case where only 0.7% of any uranium is this isotope.

Economic Cycle Research Institute forecasts a US recession in 2012

CNN Money - Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, said on Friday that his research firm is sticking with the forecast it made in September: A new recession is inevitable, despite improvement in high-profile economic indicators, such as job creation and unemployment, and a stock market rally.

The Economic Cycle Research Institute, a New York-based independent forecasting group, said its Weekly Leading Index edged down to 123.5 in the week ended Feb 10 from an upwardly revised 123.6 the previous week. That was originally reported as 123.3.

ECRI's Lakshman Achuthan joined Bloomberg Surveillance to point out that U.S. economic growth has actually slowed in recent months, contrary to the consensus view.

He identifies annual growth in industrial production, real personal income and spending, as well as the year-over-year change in gross domestic product, a broad measure of the nation's economic activity. That GDP reading has been stuck between 1.5% and 1.6% growth for the last three quarters, far less encouraging that the rising quarterly GDP, which is more widely reported.

"Basically, growth has flatlined," he said.

Some might think that a new downturn would be a so-called double-dip recession, in that it comes before the economy has fully recovered from the jobs lost during the Great Recession. But Achuthan said if the economy falls into recession at this point, it would be a new recession, not a double dip, given the time that has passed since the formal end of the recession in 2009 and the economic growth since then.

February 24, 2012

China electrical consumption in 2011 and 2012

China Daily - China's total electricity consumption is expected to top 5.14 trillion kilowatt-hours (kwh) this year, with the growth rate slowing from 11.7 percent in 2011 to between 8.5 and 10.5 percent, the CEC said in an annual industrial report posted on its website.

According to the CEC report, China's electricity consumption rose 11.7 percent year-on-year to 4.69 trillion kwh in 2011, with 24 provincial-level power grids reporting electricity shortages.

The CEC projected China's installed power generating capacity to reach 1.14 billion kilowatts by the end of 2012, adding 85 million kilowatts of capacity.

Based on data from the National Energy Administration, China used up a total of 4.69 trillion kW hours of electricity in 2011, an 11.7 per cent growth over 2010. Power used by the primary industries, including agriculture, livestock husbandry, forestry and fisheries, among others, reached 101.5 billion kWh, a 3.9 per cent uptick from last year. In the second industries that include manufacturing, water and electricity production, among others, power consumption grew by 11.9 per cent to 3.52 trillion kWh. Tertiary industries comprised by services, insurance, and hotels, among others, reached 508.2 billion kWh, a 13.5 per cent growth, while power used by households and of urban and township residents touched 564.6 billion kWh, up 10.8% year over year.
Monthly tracking of China electricity usage. Note all the dips in usage have not lasted long and usage increases shot back up to 16% after the last dip.

Here ia translation of the Chinese Security Journal Article about the first months of 2012 electricity usage

CEC expected annual growth rate of 9.5%

By the factors of the Lunar New Year holiday, and society as a whole in January this year, electricity consumption growth rate of rare negative growth. To informed sources, the power generation growth in January was -7.5%, generating growth and the growth rate of electricity consumption is closely related to the person believes that social power consumption growth rate of roughly -7.5%.

To remove the impact of the Lunar New Year holidays on January electricity consumption, electricity consumption growth rate last year high, the economic slowdown is the main reason, and the reason will continue to affect consumption growth in February. Some experts predict that between 5-6% of electricity consumption growth rate of approximately 1-2 months of this year, the expected thing is to consider the case of the continued cold weather, national weather quickly warming, electricity demand growth and even less than 5 %. The first two months of last year electricity consumption growth rate as high as 12.32 percent growth rate even higher than the full-year level of 11.7%.

Of course, subject to the limitations in power factors, making the electricity consumption of a higher base last year, but economic growth slowed down since last quarter by quarter are also important reasons. Analysts pointed out that electricity consumption growth rate as a barometer of economic growth, economic growth gradually slowed down, the electricity consumption growth rate is bound to the weak, the Ministry of Industry and even expected the first quarter of this year, economic growth will continue to slow.

CEC recently this year, total electricity consumption growth rate of 9.5% is expected. Today, electricity consumption growth rate for the first two months or even less than 6%, how to achieve full-year growth of 9.5%? CEC are given the answer yes, the consumption growth presents "low high" distribution, this trend coincided with last year contrary to the trend of consumption growth, the slowdown in economic growth last year, electricity consumption growth rate showed a monthly decline trend.

Thus, analysts have pointed out, the CEC's forecast includes an economic upturn in the second half of the expected economic growth picked up. Support the logic of the expected economic growth since last year monthly decline this year, are still further downside risks, and thus the "capital growth" has become an important task for macroeconomic regulation this year.

Japanese Construction firm talks about a space elevator in 2050

Yomiuri Shimbun - It may be possible to travel to space in an elevator as early as 2050, a major construction company has announced. Obayashi Corp., headquartered in Tokyo, on Monday unveiled a project to build a gigantic elevator that would transport passengers to a station 36,000 kilometers above the Earth.

In Obayashi's project, a cable would be stretched up to 96,000 kilometers, or about one-fourth of the distance between the Earth and the moon. One end of the cable would be anchored at a spaceport on the ground, while the other would be fitted with a counterweight.

The terminal station would house laboratories and living space. The car could carry up to 30 people to the station at 200 kilometers per hour, which would mean a 7-1/2 day trip to reach the station. Magnetic linear motors are one possible means of propulsion for the car, according to Obayashi.

Whether carbon nanotubes can be mass-produced economically enough and whether various organizations from around the world can work together are two key issues facing the development of the space elevator

"At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project," an Obayashi official said. "However, we'll try to make steady progress so that it won't end just up as simply a dream."

The company does not appear to have put a firm research budget into improving carbon nanotubes or to developing a profitable business around carbon nanotubes. There does not seem to be a committed development path to achieving the goal in 2050.

This seems to be no committed effort other than to casually look at the idea. The space elevator has too many challenges to overcome to be actually achieved without a serious plan. There is no serious plan here.

Graphyne May Be Better than Graphene

Sheets of single-layer carbon with a variety of bonding patterns may have properties similar to the wonder material graphene, according to new computer simulations.

Super-strong, highly conducting graphene is the hottest ticket in physics, but new computer simulations suggest that materials called graphynes could be just as impressive. Graphynes are one-atom-thick sheets of carbon that resemble graphene, except in the type of atomic bonds. Only small pieces of graphyne have so far been fabricated, but the new simulations, described in Physical Review Letters, may inspire fresh efforts to construct larger samples. The authors show that three different graphynes have a graphenelike electronic structure, which results in effectively massless electrons. The unique symmetry in one of these graphynes may potentially lead to new uses in electronic devices, beyond those of graphene.


D. Malko et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. (2012). Stretched honeycomb. The carbon lattice in this 6,6,12-graphyne has a rectangular symmetry, unlike the hexagonal symmetry of graphene.

China's Statistics indicate that the China Economic Bubble Arguments are Overblown

1. WSJ China Real Time has the optimistic view of China's economic situation

Argument No. 1: China is an over-invested bubble waiting to burst!

It’s true, China’s investment as a share of gross domestic product is at worrying levels –close to 50% according to the 2010 data. But that doesn’t mean China is maxed out on infrastructure. China’s entire railway network is still just 40% the length of the rail tracks in the U.S.

Argument No. 2: China’s real estate sector is about to collapse, dragging the rest of the economy down with it!

Total lending to China’s real estate sector at the end of 2011 was just 22% of gross domestic product. In the U.S., mortgage lending at the end of 2007 was 103% of GDP. That means even if China’s house prices do fall, households won’t be bankrupt and the banking sector won’t fall over


Dwave systems making first Quantum cloud

Dwave systems featured in Wired.

How Dwave Won the $10 million Lockheed Contract

Lockheed Martin makes some of the most complex systems in the world — things like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. On average, half the cost of developing a new complex system at Lockheed Martin is system verification and validation, and the major component of this is software verification and validation. The concern is that as it builds ever more complex systems, this cost will rise. “I have quipped in various board meetings that maybe we ought to give the airplanes away and sell the software maintenance contracts,” says Ned Allen, Lockheed’s chief scientist.

Instead, Allen decided that the best way of debugging the company’s software was to throw out the computers. The great mathematician and founding figure of computer science, Alan Turing, showed that it is impossible to eliminate all errors from software. But the laws of physics are another matter.

Allen’s idea is to write what amounts to a compiler to translate digital code into analog code, and then run the analog code on an analog computer of some sort. The code is directly connected to the physics of the computer, unlike digital computers that involve a logical abstraction. “The most fundamental analog computer that I know of is called quantum thermodynamics,” he says.

Allen sent D-Wave a sample problem to run on the D-Wave system: a 30-year-old chunk of code from the F-16 aircraft. The software has an error that took a crack team of Lockheed Martin engineers several months to find. Six weeks after sending the code, Allen visited D-Wave and was given a demonstration that included identifying the software error. “I was just bowled over,” says Allen.

He then convinced Lockheed Martin’s management to buy a D-Wave computer and install it in a lab at USC’s Information Sciences Institute. Lockheed Martin and USC split time on the machine, and Lockheed Martin’s access is via a secure network. The machine came online at noon on December 23, and the company now has 50 people working on it.

Google Solve for X - Neal Stephenson Getting Big Stuff Done

Much of the world has stopped innovating in a big way in the physical world for some decades. This is allowing those who are against science and have a skewed view of risk to make more inroads into slowing development.

15 to 20 kilometer tall regular steel towers are possible without new technology. So why aren't we doing it ?



Solve For X - Desalination with Forward Osmosis

Global water scarcity presents a grave challenge to continued human development and sustainability. The answer, however, is to use more water, not less. In order to do this, a dramatic technological breakthrough in desalination is necessary. This presentation describes the beginning of that effort.

Rob McGinnis is Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of Oasys Water where he's developing forward osmosis desalination technology.

Business Week - Commercial desalination is usually done in one of two ways. The first, known as thermal desalination, involves boiling seawater above 212F, then distilling the vapors. The second, called reverse osmosis, uses hydraulic pressure to force water through a membrane that filters out salt. Both require enormous amounts of energy. McGinnis says he's found a method that's at least 10 times more fuel-efficient.

Water molecules naturally want to flow from fresher solutions to saltier ones. Hence the "reverse" in reverse osmosis: It forces water molecules to go against their tendency. McGinnis's method makes use of forward osmosis. He's developed a "draw solution" that's saltier than seawater. Without need for any energy, the water molecules in seawater flow across a porous membrane and into the draw solution, leaving the sea salt behind. McGinnis's solution is as undrinkable as ocean water, but its salt compounds—"essentially just ammonium, carbon dioxide, and some other secret stuff," he says—vaporize at lower temperatures. McGinnis's solution needs only 122F to burn off salts and leave behind pure water, instead of the much higher temperatures required for thermal desalination.




Global Challenges in Energy and Water Supply: The Promise of Engineered Osmosis

February 23, 2012

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Goals for 2012

While Lawrenceville Plasma Physics While has made significant progress, they did not move forward as quickly as they had planned.

The basic reasons for this are the time it has taken to resolve some of the key engineering issues, such as the switches, and the small size of our staff, ultimately imposed by LPP’s finances. If we look at our progress as measured by number of shots, instead of by number of months, our research has been progressing about as planned. We originally calculated that we would need 2,000-2,500 shots to complete the research program from where we were in January 2011. During 2011, we only fired FF-1 600 times, due to the time needed for various technical upgrades, and our progress was actually greater than we had anticipated for that number of shots.

Looking forward, we expect in the coming year to achieve the following major goals:

1. Demonstrating the theoretically predicted fusion yield with pure deuterium.
2. Showing higher fusion yield with heavier gas mixtures.
3. Achieving reliable performance at still higher fill pressures.
4. Boosting yield even further with shorter electrodes, which allow higher gas densities.
5. Achieving giga-gauss magnetic fields in the plasmoids.
6. Demonstrating the quantum magnetic field effect’s reduction in X-ray cooling
7. Demonstrating scientific feasibility with pB11 fuel.

Achieving these goals depends on further upgrades to FF-1, including an even faster set of switches under design by a leading commercial supplier and, critically, obtaining funds to hire at least two more full-time staff.


Advanced Infrared Capabilities Lets a Sniper see Enemies from Farther away

By carrying a more accurate rifle scope, U.S. warfighters can increase their standoff distance when engaging enemies. Increased standoff distance can help protect warfighter lives. This is especially true when an infrared scope is needed for nighttime action. Technologies exist for cooled infrared imaging at greater distances, but such imaging systems are limited by size, weight and power (SWaP) to large platforms such as tanks or helicopters.

DARPA’s Advanced Wide Field of View Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation (AWARE) program is researching and developing new ways to overcome SWaP restrictions in military imaging systems. The AWARE High Operating Temperature Mid-Wave Infrared (HOT MWIR) developments by DARPA represent a reduction in system SWaP for historically restricted applications such as hand held thermal imagers and long-range thermal scopes.

Low cost amorphous laminate metamaterial for “Negative refraction” opens avenue to new products and industries

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a way to make a low-cost material that might accomplish negative refraction of light and other radiation – a goal first theorized in 1861 by a giant of science, Scottish physicist James Maxwell, that has still eluded wide practical use.

Other materials can do this but they are based on costly, complex crystalline materials. A low-cost way that yields the same result will have extraordinary possibilities, experts say – ranging from a “super lens” to energy harvesting, machine vision or “stealth” coatings for seeming invisibility.

The new approach uses ultra-thin, ultra-smooth, all-amorphous laminates, essentially a layered glass that has no crystal structure. It is, the researchers say, a “very high-tech sandwich.” The goal is to make radiation bend opposite to the way it does when passing through any naturally occurring material.


Dispersion engineering - New nano-scale amorphous laminates discovered at Oregon State University are the latest advance in the control of light through solid materials, or dispersion engineering. The work is an important step toward a "super lens." (Graphic courtesy of Oregon State University)

Physica status solidi (a) - Engineering anisotropic dielectric response through amorphous laminate structures

Bill Gates Urges Digital Revolution and Genetically Modified Food Against World Hunger

Bill Gates on Thursday called for a "digital revolution" to alleviate world hunger by increasing agricultural productivity through satellites and genetically-engineered seed varieties.

"If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it's possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land," Gates said.

He gave as one example of innovation the genetic sequencing that allows cassava farmers in Africa to predict how individual seedlings will perform, shortening the time it takes to develop a new variety from 10 years to two.

SARM Steroid S4 increases muscles and reduces fat with a lot fewer health risks

S4 (Acetamidoxolutamide) as it is known, is a a selective androgen receptor modulator or SARM for short. When compared to anabolic steroids, S4 is a selective androgen receptor modulator with one of the most androgenic effects. This androgenic effect is that S4 is one third of the strength of testosterone when binding to androgen receptors. S4 is fast acting and its half life is 4 hours. It may be able to reduce the size of the prostate if used at a honest dosage which is why SARMs are being looked at as replacement for Androgen Deprived Therapy or ADT for short.

The Anti-doping agency (WADA) believes that 10% of athletes are using SARMS. SARM S1 (Ostarine) is undetectable and provides performance enhancement similar to regular steroids. It also has virtually no health side effects. I think the estimate of 10% usage is low for undetectable, seemingly safe performance enhancement.

Studies have shown the ability of SARMs to increase muscle and bone mass dramatically in animals while having no adverse impact on the prostate. Phase I trials of SARMs in humans have also reported significant increases in lean muscle mass. The two most talked about SARMs among bodybuilders are SARM S-4 a.k.a. Acetamidoxolutamide and SARM S-1: a.k.a. Ostarine or MK 2866.

Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (S.A.R.M), attach to the very same receptors that old steroids like Dianabol and testosterone would attach to, but SARMs don't have the disadvantages and side-effects of the old school anabolic hormones. As a matter of fact, while SARMs are anabolic and improve performance, they may not even qualify as hormones. They are a completely new compound that specifically target muscle building, strength and performance without causing any of the unwanted side effects of anabolic steroids. This is a new dawn in the evolution of muscle pharmacology, and I'm sure you will enjoy learning about how SARMS can increase muscle mass, while helping you to lose bodyfat and increase athletic performance beyond what we ever thought possible.

Possible 100,000 Nomad planets per star could have atmospheres and carry life

Our galaxy may be awash in homeless planets, wandering through space instead of orbiting a star. There may be 100,000 times more "nomad planets" in the Milky Way than stars, according to a new study by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

We covered this last week.

There is a 10 pages Arxiv paper

If observations confirm the estimate, this new class of celestial objects will affect current theories of planet formation and could change our understanding of the origin and abundance of life.

"If any of these nomad planets are big enough to have a thick atmosphere, they could have trapped enough heat for bacterial life to exist," said Louis Strigari, leader of the team that reported the result in a paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Although nomad planets don't bask in the warmth of a star, they may generate heat through internal radioactive decay and tectonic activity.

Oregon State University Looks at Risks from Japan post-Tsunami and post-Fukushima

The first anniversary is approaching of the March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima, Japan, and later this year debris from that event should begin to wash up on U.S. shores – and one question many have asked is whether that will pose a radiation risk. The simple answer is, no.

Nuclear radiation health experts from Oregon State University who have researched this issue following the meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant say the minor amounts of deposition on the debris field scattered in the ocean will have long since dissipated, decayed or been washed away by months of pounding in ocean waves.

However, that’s not to say that all of the debris that reaches Pacific Coast shores in the United States and Canada will be harmless.

“The tsunami impacted several industrial areas and no doubt swept out to sea many things like bottled chemicals or other compounds that could be toxic,” said Kathryn Higley, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at OSU.

Various reports claim a faulty fiber optic wire was the source fo the FTL neutrino measurements

Telegraph UK - researchers at the CERN lab near Geneva claimed they had recorded neutrinos, a type of tiny particle, travelling faster than the barrier of 186,282 miles (299,792 kilometers) per second. Now it seems Einstein's reputation has been restored after a source close to the experiment told the US journal Science Insider that "A bad connection between a GPS unit and a computer may be to blame."

Scientists at CERN claimed that neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than the 2.3 milliseconds taken by light.

The report in Science Insider said the "60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos' flight and an electronic card in a computer. "

"After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed," it added.

"Since this time is subtracted from the overall time of flight, it appears to explain the early arrival of the neutrinos. New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis."

South Korea has two new nuclear power plants, China invests in nuclear research and Energy in Saskatchewan

1. World Nuclear News - South Korea's two newest nuclear reactors, Shin Kori 2 and Shin Wolsong 1, have been connected to the grid.

Shin Kori 2 started up in December 2011 and was connected to the grid in January, joining Shin Kori 1 which entered commercial operation in early 2011. Meanwhile, Shin Wolsong 1 started up and was connected to the grid in January. Its sister plant, Shin Wolsong 2, is expected to start up before the end of 2012.

The two units are both South Korean-designed OP-1000 pressurised water reactors and are due to enter commercial operation by the middle of 2012.

China 2011 energy, GDP and agriculture numbers

China's National Bureau of statistics released financial, energy and agricultural statistics for 2011
In 2011, China’s coal consumption increased by 9.7%, the most year-over-year growth seen since 2005. The country also saw a substantial increase in natural gas consumption, which climbed by 12% in 2011.

China coal usage is at 3.48 billion metric tons of standard coal equivalent.

This is bad news for the environment but the commodity numbers are consistent with the growing GDP numbers. Crude-oil use increased 2.7 percent, natural gas gained 12 percent and electricity demand expanded 11.7 percent.

China's annual gross domestic product (GDP) 47.1564 trillion yuan, an increase of 9.2 percent over the previous year. Among them, the first industry was 4.7712 trillion yuan, an increase of 4.5%; the secondary industry was 22.0592 trillion yuan, up 10.6 percent; the tertiary industry was 20.326 trillion yuan, an increase of 8.9%. The first industry to gross domestic product accounted for 10.1%, secondary industry accounted for 46.8% of the tertiary industry accounted for 43.1%.

Overall energy consumption per unit of GDP declined another 2% — continuing the 19.1% decline in energy intensity since 2005. In addition, solar installations increased by 547% and wind installations grew by 48% last year.



February 22, 2012

The Science of Up to 20 watts of Energy Harvesting Shoes in Nature

Reverse electrowetting as a new approach to high-power energy harvesting

Let us consider the case of the film stack with the capacitance of 16 nF cm−2. The average generated power calculated using equation (2) is shown in Figure 3b. The average power per foot can exceed 2 W for bias voltages in excess of 35 V and 10 W for bias voltages in excess of 75 V. The bias voltage can be substantially reduced by increasing the capacitance of the dielectric film stack. However, it is important to mention, that even at its current level the bias voltage does not present a substantial practical issue. A wide range of commercially available DC–DC boost converter components can be used to convert the 3.7 V output of standard Li-ion batteries to the required bias voltage. Thus, this example clearly supports the use of footwear designed for high-power-energy harvesting based on reverse electrowetting.

The other common source for mechanical energy harvesting is vibration energy. It has been demonstrated that the energy of mechanical vibrations present in floors, stairs, vehicles and equipment housings can be used for electrical power generation. Currently, the majority of experimental vibration harvesters have output power in the range from 10^−6 to 10^−2 W. The reverse electrowetting (REWOD) process can enable the use of novel harvester architectures with greatly increased power output. One example of the REWOD-based vibration harvester device consists of an array of conductive droplets squeezed between two dielectric-coated electrodes, as shown in Figure 4b. The electrodes are separated by a millimeter-thick elastic spacer so that the resulting structure can be used as a mounting 'pad' for the load device. Mechanical vibration of the load device causes periodic change in the solid–liquid contact area and, thus, electrical current generation. For the film stack with a capacitance of 10^2 nF cm−2, the resulting power density can be scaled up to 10^−1 W cm^−2 at 50 Hz vibration frequency, thus enabling the fabrication of practical vibration harvesters with power output of several watts.

The above examples illustrate new possibilities in portable high-power energy harvesting that can be opened by utilizing the REWOD process. High-power energy harvesting can potentially provide a valuable alternative to the use of batteries. Even though energy harvesting is unlikely to completely replace batteries in the majority of mobile applications, it can have a very important role in reducing cost, pollution, and other problems associated with battery use. We believe that the REWOD-based mechanical to electrical energy conversion process, which we have developed, can go a long way in achieving this goal.

Schematics of two REWOD applications.

Instep Nano Power is a startup that the researchers made to try to commercialize the technology

BAE has structural batteries that could repalce carbon composite structural materials

BAE systems developed structural batteries to lighten the load of soldiers carrying rucksacks, which can weigh up to 76kg and be filled with numerous electrical items. The structural batteries store the electrical energy within the physical structure of a device and thus helping to reduce or eliminate the need for traditional batteries, which create weight and bulk, as well as the burden and cost of carrying spares. Potentially the technology could be a substitute for existing carbon-composite structural materials.

Fully operational, rechargeable, structural batteries have been demonstrated based on conventional composites materials and fabrication processes. Virtually any form or shape has proven possible and the physical density and mechanical properties of current materials are similar to unmodified Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer/Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer.

To demonstrate the technology’s application beyond the battlefield, BAE Systems have also applied the technology through a partnership with leading race car manufacturer Lola. The Lola-Drayson B12/69EV, zero emission 850 horsepower Le Mans Prototype car will incorporate structural batteries to power some of the on-board electronic systems. Upon completion, the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV aims to become the world’s fastest electric racing car.


BBC news has coverage

However, the power density of the batteries, the energy they can store for a given weight, is currently quite low - about a third that of a car battery, and a 10th that of the lithium-based batteries used in laptops and phones.

"We're not particularly high in terms of power density," Mr Penney admitted.

"We do have a lab demonstrator which is approaching the realms of a car battery," he added.

French Exoskeleton Hercule for 2014

RB3d is an 11 person french company. They have battery-powered legs designed to help their human controllers lift up to 220 pounds, and will reportedly remain powered for 12.5 miles if the user walks at a normal place. The system looks very similar to the Lockheed Martin HULC exoskeleton.

Hercule is focused on military, rescue, and medical field use. While the suit currently only utilizes reinforcements for the legs, RB3D is developing a mechanized arm component to aid users in directly lifting heavy objects as well. The exoskeleton is scheduled to be marketed as soon as 2014.

Swimming through the blood stream: Stanford engineers create wireless, self-propelled medical device

Engineers at Stanford have demonstrated tiny implantable devices that could travel through the bloodstream.

This week, at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, before an audience of her peers, Ada Poon demonstrated a tiny, wirelessly powered, self-propelled medical device capable of controlled motion through a fluid – blood, to be exact. The era of swallow-the-surgeon medical care may no longer be the stuff of science fiction.

Poon, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, is developing a new class of medical devices that can be implanted or injected into the human body and powered wirelessly using electromagnetic radio waves. No batteries to wear out. No cables to provide power.


The current prototype chip, shown here resting on a hand, is only three millimeters wide and four millimeters long.

Implantable, Wireless Sensors Share Secrets of Healing Tissues

A new implantable sensor developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute can wirelessly transmit data from the site of a recent orthopedic surgery. Inexpensive to make and highly reliable, this new sensor holds the promise of more accurate, more cost-effective, and less invasive post-surgery monitoring and diagnosis.

Following an orthopedic procedure, surgeons usually rely on X-rays or MRIs to monitor the progress of their patient’s recovery. The new sensors, created by Rensselaer faculty researcher Eric Ledet, would instead give surgeons detailed, real-time information from the actual surgery site. This in vivo data could lead to more accurate assessments of a patient’s recovery, or provide better insight into potential complications.

The wireless sensor measures only 4 millimeters in diameter and 500 microns thick. It needs no battery, no external power, and requires no electronics within the body. Instead, the sensor is powered by the external device, which is also used to capture the sensor data.


Controlling Protein Function With Nanostructures

A new study led by nanotechnology and biotechnology experts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is providing important details on how proteins in our bodies interact with nanomaterials. In their new study, published in the Feb. 2 online edition of the journal Nano Letters, the researchers developed a new tool to determine the orientation of proteins on different nanostructures. The discovery is a key step in the effort to control the orientation, structure, and function of proteins in the body using nanomaterials.

Nanoletters - Position-Specific Chemical Modification and Quantitative Proteomics Disclose Protein Orientation Adsorbed on Silica Nanoparticles



Fiber Optic connection to computer screen will save 30% of energy

A single fiber-optic can light up computer screens. This innovation put in place by L.E.S.S., a recently formed spin-off of EPFL, brings energy savings of 30% while boosting processors.

“Slim as a hair, powerful as 100 LEDs”: the advantages of this technology have the allure of a slogan. “Currently, half the consumption of energy in laptops is connected to the screen and particularly its lighting,” explains Yann Tissot, the founder of the company, L.E.S.S. (Light Efficient SystemS). Transporting light through fiber-optics, as this newly created start-up wishes to do, permits the reduction of energy use by more than 30%.

Laptop screens are composed of different filters for colors and of a source of white light situated in the lower portion of the frame. With LED, which is currently used, 60% of the light remains trapped inside these diodes and accounts for a significant loss in efficiency. The fiber optics developed by L.E.S.S. could bring just as much luminosity and contrast while conserving a quarter of the energy. “That liberated power could be used by the processor to gain speed,” adds the entrepreneur.

China examining its Growth Model

1. Seeking Alpha - Michael Pettis - When Will China Emerge From The Global Crisis?

I have always thought that the least painful way for China to rebalance its economy requires that it radically redistribute income and wealth away from the state sector and to the household sector. There are many ways this can happen, some better and some worse, but privatizing SOEs and using the proceeds to clean up the banks (whose NPLs are a future claim on households), to shore up the social safety net, and to permit SME’s more scope in which to compete is, in my opinion, the most efficient ways to do so. It would also weaken sectors that are able to restrain change in the economy.

A lot of very smart people in China seem to be worried that the country’s governance structure and its development model are no longer able to accommodate the needs of the economy and that it is vitally important to confront the entrenched interest that make change difficult. This is sometimes presented in the foreign press as the debate between the “Chongqing” model versus the “Guangdong” model.

Power Felt could enable thermoelectrics to convert heat to power at 1000 times lower cost

Simply by touching a small piece of Power Felt – a promising new thermoelectric device developed by team of researchers in the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials – Corey Hewitt has converted his body heat into an electrical current. Currently, 72 stacked layers in the fabric yield about 140 nanowatts of power. The team is evaluating several ways to add more nanotube layers and make them even thinner to boost the power output.

Comprised of tiny carbon nanotubes locked up in flexible plastic fibers and made to feel like fabric, Power Felt uses temperature differences – room temperature versus body temperature, for instance – to create a charge.

Potential uses for Power Felt include lining automobile seats to boost battery power and service electrical needs, insulating pipes or collecting heat under roof tiles to lower gas or electric bills, lining clothing or sports equipment to monitor performance, or wrapping IV or wound sites to better track patients’ medical needs.

“Imagine it in an emergency kit, wrapped around a flashlight, powering a weather radio, charging a prepaid cell phone,” says David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. “Literally, just by sitting on your phone, Power Felt could provide relief during power outages or accidents.”

Cost has prevented thermoelectrics from being used more widely in consumer products. Standard thermoelectric devices use a much more efficient compound called bismuth telluride to turn heat into power in products including mobile refrigerators and CPU coolers, but it can cost $1,000 per kilogram. Like silicon, researchers liken its affordability to demand in volume and think someday Power Felt would cost only $1 to add to a cell phone cover.


Graduate student Corey Hewitt works with a sample of thermoelectric fabric in the Nanotechnology lab.

Nanoletters - Multilayered Carbon Nanotube/Polymer Composite Based Thermoelectric Fabrics

Sirtuin 6 can increase the lifespan of male mice by 15%

Nature - The sirtuin SIRT6 regulates lifespan in male mice

Mammals have seven types of sirtuin, so Haim Cohen and Yariv Kanfi at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, turned to sirtuin 6 instead. They compared mice genetically engineered to have increased levels of SIRT6 with normal mice, engineering the mice in two different ways to control for genetic influences.

Male mice from both strains lived 15 per cent longer than normal mice or females. Older modified male mice metabolised sugar faster than normal mice and females, suggesting that SIRT6 might extend life by protecting against metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

The significant increase in human lifespan during the past century confronts us with great medical challenges. To meet these challenges, the mechanisms that determine healthy ageing must be understood and controlled. Sirtuins are highly conserved deacetylases that have been shown to regulate lifespan in yeast, nematodes and fruitflies. However, the role of sirtuins in regulating worm and fly lifespan has recently become controversial. Moreover, the role of the seven mammalian sirtuins, SIRT1 to SIRT7 (homologues of the yeast sirtuin Sir2), in regulating lifespan is unclear. Here we show that male, but not female, transgenic mice overexpressing Sirt6 have a significantly longer lifespan than wild-type mice. Gene expression analysis revealed significant differences between male Sirt6-transgenic mice and male wild-type mice: transgenic males displayed lower serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), higher levels of IGF-binding protein 1 and altered phosphorylation levels of major components of IGF1 signalling, a key pathway in the regulation of lifespan5. This study shows the regulation of mammalian lifespan by a sirtuin family member and has important therapeutic implications for age-related diseases.

Injectable gel could repair damaged cardiac tissue

University of California, San Diego researchers have developed a new injectable hydrogel that could be an effective and safe treatment for tissue damage caused by heart attacks. A company Ventrix, Inc., has been setup to bring the gel to clinical trials within the next year.

Therapies like the hydrogel would be a welcome development, Christman explained, since there are an estimated 785,000 new heart attack cases in the United States each year, with no established treatment for repairing the resulting damage to cardiac tissue.

The hydrogel is made from cardiac connective tissue that is stripped of heart muscle cells through a cleansing process, freeze-dried and milled into powder form, and then liquefied into a fluid that can be easily injected into the heart. Once it hits body temperature, the liquid turns into a semi-solid, porous gel that encourages cells to repopulate areas of damaged cardiac tissue and to preserve heart function, according to Christman. The hydrogel forms a scaffold to repair the tissue and possibly provides biochemical signals that prevent further deterioration in the surrounding tissues.

Taiwan Semiconductor considers switching to a 450 mm 14 nanometer electron beam lithography tool for around 2016

Semiconductor Manufacturing and Design - Does the transition to 450mm wafers offer the ultimate opportunity to switch to maskless lithography (ML2)? That was the suggestion made by Burn Lin, senior director of micropatterning at TSMC in his keynote for the SPIE Alternative Lithography Conference in San Jose Feb. 14. The 450mm transition would appear to require expensive development of a variety of patterning tools and resists if a conventional mix-and-match strategy were employed. Since multi-electron beam lithography can be used to write any layer, one 450mm e-beam direct-write tool could pattern them all, and for 30% lower cost at any production volume. Only one machine would have to be engineered and only a few resists formulated.

India will start 300-MW thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor project in next 18 months

Hindu Business Line - India's government has decided to commence the construction of 300-MW thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor in the next 18 months, a senior official said on Tuesday.

“Under the third stage of nuclear programme based on thorium utilisation, a reactor of 300 MW will be constructed in a year and a half from now..,” Kalpakkam-based Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research Director, Mr S.C. Chetal, told reporters here.

“The work for that will commence in the next Five-Year Plan,” he said on the sidelines of a function.

Skeletal Muscle Printed with Organovo's 3-D Printer

Methuselah Foundation - A thin layer of human skeletal muscle is being printed by Chirag Khatiwala in a small, sterile room of San Diego-based startup Organovo. Each muscle cell from the company's signature 3-D printer is uniformly deposited in closely spaced lines on a petri dish. This allows the cells to grow and interconnect until they form working muscle tissue nearly indistinguishable from a human muscle biopsy.

Unlike other experimental approaches that utilize ink-jet printers to deposit cells, Organovo's technology enables cells to interact with each other the way they do in the body. How? They are packed tightly together, sandwiched, if you will, and incubated. This prompts them to cleave to each other and interchange chemical signals. When printed, the cells are grouped together in a paste that helps them grow, migrate, and align themselves properly. In the case of muscle cells, the way they orient themselves in the same direction allow for contractions of the tissue.

Skeletal muscle tissue is but one of several classes of tissue, including cardiac, lung, and blood vessels that can be built from a 3-D printer.


Credit: Frank Rogozienski/Wonderful Machine

Technology Review - So far, Organovo has made only small pieces of tissue, but its ultimate goal is to use its 3-D printer to make complete organs for transplants. Because the organs would be printed from a patient's own cells, there would be less danger of rejection.

Organovo plans to fund its organ-­printing research with revenue from printing tissues to aid in drug development. The company is undertaking experiments to prove that its technology can help researchers detect drug toxicity earlier than is possible with other tests, and it is setting up partnerships with major companies, starting with the drug giant Pfizer.

US Air Force Expectations around Quantum Computing, Memristors, Nanotechnology and Superconductors

The US Air Force has a Energy Horizons plan out to 2026 (72 pages)

Air Force missions, such as persistent surveillance of large areas, require massive data analytics on supercomputers to deliver the critical capability of finding the proverbial ―needle in the haystack and thereby help humans avoid sensory overload. At another extreme, covert special operations forces have limited communications, limited time and limited battery capacity but need functionality from a portable computational capability that only a few years ago would have taken a supercomputer. Even more daunting, autonomous operation of bird-sized micro air vehicles demand high capacity computer operations be carried out in physical spaces equivalent to golf ball sized brains. This challenge is becomes even more difficult when vehicles are shrunk to bug-sized around 2020. The combination of massive data analytics on supercomputers and embedded high performance computing enables new mission capabilities for the Air Force.

As captured in Table 4.1, the first technical challenge that directly addresses all these mission needs is achieving energy efficiency at the system level and finding the technical means for another 700X improvement over the next 15 years. Energy efficiency needs to be a first order, if not the primary, design criterion driving system engineering tradeoffs. Technology advances such as three dimensional stacking can be game changers, but not if the stack overheats from power hungry chips.

US Air Force Energy Horizons 2011 to 2026

Energy Horizons provides the Air Force vision and blueprint for energy S&T spanning the domains of air, space, cyber, and infrastructure. Energy Horizons focuses on science and technology in the near (1-5 years), mid (6-10 years), and far (11-15 years) term that hold the most promise to revolutionize AF operations, efficiency, and effectiveness. (72 pages)

In the air domain, for example, advanced engines, fuels, structures, and operations were identified that promise to achieve single and double digit improvements in efficiencies promising increases in loiter/ranges and/or enhanced missions. In the space domain, highly efficient photovoltaics, Hall and electric thrusters, and new battery technologies promise more efficient and resilient space operations and revolutionary new services such as in-space power beaming and on-orbit refueling. In the cyber domain, efficient algorithms and processors and cloud computing promise not only energy savings but also enhanced cyber resiliency. Finally, in infrastructure, advances in renewables, smart grids, and Solar-to-Petrol plants promise to increase energy resilience and independence for both fixed and expeditionary bases.

Across all Air Force domains of operation, Energy Horizons identifies game changing technologies in energy generation, storage and use. Advances in energy generation include ultra-efficient, flexible photovoltaics; small, auto-safing modular nuclear reactors; and efficient and abundant non-food source biofuels. Advances in energy storage (advanced batteries, ultra-capacitors, high power fly wheels, and superconducting magnetic energy storage) promise significant improvements in power and energy density and with increased flexibility in charge/discharge cycles. Finally, nanomaterials (e.g., carbon-carbon nanotubes, memristers), cloud computing, efficient supercomputing, and energy micromonitoring promise multiplicative efficiencies from energy efficient structures and microelectronics, efficient and resilient computing architectures, energy optimized platform designs, and enhanced energy situational awareness and management.

February 21, 2012

SARM Steroids probably used by over 10% of Athletes

SARMS is believed to be a safe steroid. It provides the muscle enhancment and does not damage the liver and the only side effect that is reported is to light sensitivity. It offers a viable substitute for steroids in hormone replacement therapy, osteoporosis, benign prostate hypertrophy and in combating muscle wasting. It could provides a safe means of preventing or reducing frailty in the elderly.

Daily Telegraph - SARMS - Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators - are still in the trial phase for human use but are already widely available overseas with numerous testimonials on internet forums, especially from bodybuilders who are experimenting with dosage.

The World Anti-Doping Agency did not specifically name SARMS but yesterday declared their fears that some 10 per cent of international sportsmen and women are using prohibited performance-enhancing drugs.

Charlie Francis (the coach of Ben Johnson) told the Daily Telegraph before he died in 2010 that SARMS in the form of ostravin and the stronger S4 (which is now detectable), was already in use at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and was the "dope de jeur'' in Berlin at the 2009 world athletics championships.

Assessment of impact of 88 coal plants on health

Estimating the Health Impacts of Coal-Fired Power Plants Receiving International Financing (9 pages) Of the 88 coal plants and companies considered in this report, 57% of those in High and Upper middle income countries used (flue-gas desulfurization) FGD compared to only 30% of those in Lower-middle and Low income countries. Theoretically, if all of the 88 plants and companies used FGD technology, the overall annual mortality total would drop to 2710 deaths. As an example of the importance of FGD for a single plant, if the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega coal plant installed and activated FGD technology (as it does not currently utilize FGD), its attributable mortality burden would drop from 250 annual deaths to 100 annual deaths.

We estimate that between roughly 6000 and 10,700 annual deaths from heart ailments, respiratory disease and lung cancer can be attributed to the 88 coal fired power plants and companies receiving public international financing.

This range of estimated mortality reflects different assumptions regarding use of air pollution control technologies in plants for which this information was not obtainable. Air pollution from coal-fired power plants is also associated with other health outcomes, including infant deaths, asthma and other lung diseases.

Estimates of the number of people experiencing these additional health outcomes were not made in this study, as the necessary data from the countries where the power plants are located were not available. This suggests that the deaths estimated here represent only a portion of a larger overall health burden related to air pollution from these power plants.

While most new power plants in both developed and less-developed countries have some modern pollution controls, such as electrostatic precipitators (ESPs), use of flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) is relatively rare in the less-developed countries. When utilized on plants that otherwise do not remove large amounts of sulfur from their emissions (e.g., through coal fluidized bed techniques), FGD can reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 90%, resulting in substantial human health risk reductions



Ericsson Networked City Index

Networked Society City Index - Triple-bottom-line effects of accelerated ICT maturity in cities worldwide (16 pages)

The past 25 years have brought a digital age, massive computing power, highspeed data access and mobile communication. More recently, we have seen the emergence of the cloud, bringing communication and information technologies together in a new, emerging ICT industry. Over the next 25 years, advances in technology and infrastructure performance will continue to change our world. ICT has the potential to help us meet some of our great societal challenges. We call this new emerging society – of which we have so far only seen the beginning – the Networked Society.

Assessing the effects and benefits of ICT maturity within a city framework brings several opportunities. Firstly, cities represent a more universally comparable context than the more commonly used nation- based frameworks. Comparing London and Shanghai makes more sense than comparing the UK and China. A city focus therefore provides opportunities for faster understanding and global best-practice sharing. Secondly, cities are already home to more than half the world’s population, with more than 50 percent of global GDP generated in the largest 600 cities. Trends suggest that more than 60 percent of all people will live in cities by 2030. Consequently cities will increasingly require effective ICT strategies to be implemented across a multitude of stakeholders in order to meet the needs of social, economic and environmental development. Finally, the city index framework provides city mayors, local authorities and decision-makers with a tool to measure and analyze their cities’ ICT maturity, as well as the triple-bottom-line results of their ICT investments.

Smith Barney Covers the Emergence of the Global Middle Class

Smith Barney - Asian Affluence: The Emerging 21st Century Middle Class, June 2011 (27 pages)

Global spending by the global middle class will rise from $21 trillion in 2011 to $56 trillion in 2030. 80% of the demand growth will come from Asia.

1.8 billion global middle class in 2009. 3.2 billion estimated for 2020 and 4.9 billion in 2030.



IMF and Geopolitical Monitor on China's Economy

1. Beijing Review - The IMF anticipates a number of opportunities and risks facing the Chinese economy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest China Economic Outlook expects China's GDP to grow 8.25 percent in 2012, gathering speed in the latter part of the year and climbing to 8.75 percent in 2013.

The purchasing managers index (PMI), a barometer of the country's manufacturing activity, rebounded to 50.5 percent in January 2012 from 50.3 percent in December 2011, a sign that the growth engine has regained a solid footing.

Greece has a 130 billion euro bailout

BBC News covers the latest Greek bailout.

Greece has avoided a nightmare scenario by agreeing to a 130bn euros (£110bn; $170bn) bailout deal.

Under the agreement hammered out in Brussels

* Greece will undertake to reduce its debt from 160% of GDP to 120.5% by 2020
* private holders of Greek debt will take losses of 53.5% on the value of their bonds, with the real loss as much as 70%
* eurozone experts will permanently monitor Greece's economic management
* a constitutional change will give priority to debt repayments over the funding of government services

The country has just over a week to approve a round of spending cuts of more than 3bn euros tied to the bailout


Allowing innovation in Nuclear Energy and increasing conventional nuclear power generation

Wired UK - the US's Nuclear Regulatory Commission may be split into separate branches for conventional and unconventional nuclear to expedite the revolution in new nuclear energy technology, and that up to $904 million (£650 million) of US government funding for small modular reactors may be opened up to all reactor types.

Helion Energy claims in a peer-reviewed research paper that they had developed a working "Fusion Engine" that had already "performed fusion" on a small scale by colliding together balls of plasma at high speed. The paper then went on to show that with $20 million (£12.6 million) and an engine only three times larger, they could achieve in less than two years what ITER, the $15 billion (£9.45 billion) international fusion project, hasn't been able to: break-even.

"the clear message we get from the government is that they just want people to work on solving the severe technical problems experienced by projects like ITER, and they are not interested in alternate solutions. "Even though in our version, seven out of ten of these problems don't exist; we don't solve them, we avoid them.

How to Expand Conventional Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power uprates could accelerated and expanded.
The US and most other countries could get a 10% boost from that.

Lightbridge and others are working on new annular fuel uprates which could increase the power of existing reactors by up to 30-50%

South Korea also working on annular fuel uprates.
For 20% gain without changing major systems.


A natural disaster that cost the lives of thousands of people was ignored in favour of a nuclear 'disaster’ that never was

Telegraph UK - The Japanese earthquake caused a tsunami. The tsunami was a wall of destruction travelling at 40 or 50mph.

Hundreds, thousands of people were being killed before my eyes, some in the most horrible way. And on that first day, like all journalists, I began writing about the disaster much as I had written about the 2004 earthquake and tsunamis which had devastated the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

But then something odd happened. When it became clear the waves had struck a nuclear power plant, Fukushima Dai-ichi, 100 or so miles north of Tokyo, it was almost as if the great disaster we had witnessed had been erased from view. Suddenly, all the reports concentrated on the possibility of a reactor meltdown, the overheating fuel rods, and the design flaws in this ancient plant.

Smartphones, Apps, student hackers and startups making revolutionary technology to help the poor at low cost

Technology Review - Last year College Senior Njenga and three classmates developed a program that will let thousands of Kenyan health workers use mobile phones to report and track the spread of diseases in real time—and they'd done it for a tiny fraction of what the government had been on the verge of paying for such an application.

The problem he had tackled was critical in a nation where one in 25 is HIV-positive (10 times the U.S. rate) and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria are among the leading killers. In 2010, the Kenyan government realized it had to do something about its chaotic system for tracking infectious diseases in order to improve the response to outbreaks and report cases to the World Health Organization. Handwritten reports and text messages describing deaths and new cases of disease would stream in from more than 5,000 clinics around the nation and pivot through more than 100 district offices before being manually entered into a database in Nairobi. The health ministry wanted to let community health workers put information into the database directly from mobile phones, which are ubiquitous in Kenya. The ministry initially sought a solution the usual way: it explored hiring a multinational contractor. It drafted a contract with the Netherlands office of Bharti Airtel, the Indian telecommunications giant that also operates a mobile network in Kenya. The company proposed spending tens of thousands of dollars on mobile phones and SIM cards for the data-gathering task, and it said it would need another $300,000 to develop the data application on the phones. The total package ran to $1.9 million.

Smaller antennas for smaller wireless devices and still smaller micro-air vehicles

Eurekalert - When you thought our hand held electronic devices could not get any smaller or more efficient, along comes Dr. Anthony Grbic and his research team from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, with an antenna the size of an quarter.

You may ask: why is this significant? Dr. Grbic, and his colleague Dr. Stephen Forrest, point out that in most cases the size of the antenna within a wireless device is actually the limiting factor in the minimum achievable size of the device itself. As such, manufacturers must "build up" to the required antenna size. Dr. Grbic's team provides a way for manufacturers to either "build down" to a much smaller size, or with a smaller antenna, to allow additional room for more capabilities with built-in options.

From 2011, there was coverage of the hemispherical antenna


Terahertz CMOS Image Chip debuts at ISSCC

EETimes - Downsizing big bulky terahertz (THz) detectors for integration on CMOS image chips has been accomplished by the University of Texas (Dallas) with funding from the Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC). Accomplished under SRC’s Focus Research Program, the demonstration of terahertz speeds on standard CMOS opens a door for a new slew of consumer devices that can see through solid objects.

We can now build a CMOS image chip for a cell-phone-sized camera module that sees in the terahertz range," said Ken O, a professor and lead researcher for SRC’s program at UT Dallas and a key investigator in the Center for Circuit and System Solutions, a part of SRC’s Focus Center Research Program.

Today terahertz cameras are used, for instance, in the airport to see inside luggage and under clothing to detect hidden weapons, but the devices require expensive discrete components. By downsizing terahertz sensors for standard CMOS chips, the terahertz camera can be both size and cost reduced in the extreme.
A one-pixel CMOS terahertz image chip (left) can see through solid objects, here showing the inner workings of an old-school floppy disk.


February 20, 2012

A better method for functionalizing graphene to enable better electronics

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a new method for chemically altering graphene, a development that could be a step toward the creation of faster, thinner, flexible electronics.

Researchers must learn how to tune the electronic properties of graphene -- not an easy feat, given a major challenge intrinsic to the material. Unlike semiconductors such as silicon, pure graphene is a zero band-gap material, making it difficult to electrically “turn off” the flow of current through it. Therefore, pristine graphene is not appropriate for the digital circuitry that comprises the vast majority of integrated circuits.

To overcome this problem and make graphene more functional, researchers around the world are investigating methods for chemically altering the material. The most prevalent strategy is the “Hummers method,” a process developed in the 1940s that oxidizes graphene, but that method relies upon harsh acids that irreversibly damage the fabric of the graphene lattice.

Researchers at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science have recently developed a new method to oxidize graphene without the collateral damage encountered in the Hummers method. Their oxidation process is also reversible, which enables further tunability over the resulting properties of their chemically modified graphene.


Atomic-scale imaging of chemisorbed atomic oxygen on epitaxial graphene.

Nature Chemistry - Chemically homogeneous and thermally reversible oxidation of epitaxial graphene


Progress to factory grown meat

UK Telegraph - Prof Mark Post, of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, yesterday announced the world's first test tube hamburger would be served up in October. Heston Blumenthal, the experimental chef, will cook the patty grown in a lab from a cow's stem cells. Each portion will cost £220,000, but Prof Post hopes if the burger is a success he can develop the technology on an industrial scale.

Post's aim is to invent an efficient way to produce skeletal muscle tissue in a laboratory that exactly mimics meat, and eventually replace the entire meat-animal industry.

The ingredients for his first burger are "still in a laboratory phase," he said, but by spring "we have committed ourselves to make a couple of thousand of small tissues, and then assemble them into a hamburger."

DARPA Avatar robot project

Wired Danger Room - DARPA has a new $7 million for a project titled “Avatar"

The Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate. These robots should be smart and agile enough to do the dirty work of war, Darpa notes. That includes the “room clearing, sentry control [and] combat casualty recovery.” And all at the bidding of their human partner.

The “Avatar” project, notes “key advancements in telepresence and remote operation of a ground system,” it sounds like the agency’s after an even more sophisticated robot-soldier synergy. They don’t specify the means, but Darpa’s already funded successful investigations into robots that are controlled with mind power alone. Granted, that research was performed on monkeys. But it does raise the tantalizing prospect that soldiers might one day meld minds with their very own robotic alter egos.

Telepresence and telerobotics would be very useful for space applications as we have covered here

Nvidia targets Tegra 2 Smartphones at one fifth the cost of iPhone 4S and soon Tegra 3 smartphones

1. CNET - Nvidia is eying a market for inexpensive dual-core smartphones that underprice the iPhone 4S by 4 or 5 times. The "1,000 RMB phone" in China, will use Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 processor paired with a 3G modem. RMB 1,000 is about 80 percent less than the price of an iPhone 4S, which currently retails for RMB 4,988 in China.

Quad-core Tegra 3 production is ramping now and Nvidia expects 50 percent growth in its Tegra business quarter to quarter. The Tegra 3 powers the Asus Transformer Prime tablet. More tablets with Tegra 3 are coming. Huang also intimated that HTC would bring out a quad-core phone. Information about other phones, such as the LG X3, have leaked separately.


Second Blade Runner will be a story in the Blade Runner Universe

Follow up on news that Ridley Scott will direct a new Blade Runner Film

There was talk that Harrison Ford was in talks for a sequel to Blade Runner, but this has been denied by the Producers

Producer Andrew Kosove of Alcon Entertainment told Deadline: "It is absolutely patently false that there has been any discussion about Harrison Ford being in Blade Runner. To be clear, what we are trying to do with Ridley now is go through the painstaking process of trying to break the back of the story, figure out the direction we're going to take the movie and find a writer to work on it. The casting of the movie could not be further from our minds at this moment."

Kosove compared the Blade Runner followup to Scott's long-awaited forthcoming return to science fiction, Prometheus, which has been described as a film which is not a prequel or sequel, but exists within "the same universe" as its predecessor, 1979's Alien.

"What Ridley does in Prometheus is a good template for what we're trying to do," he said. "He created something that has some association to the original Alien, but lives on its own as a standalone movie." Kosove was asked if Scott's plans might allow Ford to return. "In advance of knowing what we're going to do, I supposed you could say yes, he could," he replied. "But I think it is quite unlikely."


India's 500 megawatt breeder reactor to be commissioned in and Russian and Chinese Fast Reactor Plans and Projects

Hindustan Times - India plans to commission the first-of-its-kind Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) early in 2013, kickstarting the second stage of its nuclear programme. The 500 MWe reactor, being developed by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, uses a Composeunique mix of uranium and plutonium which significantly enhances the capability to generate electricity per tonne of fuel utilised.

"The construction will be completed by September and fuel will be lowered by December, 2012. We expect commissioning by early 2013," IGCAR Director S C Chetal said here.

India plans to have at least five more 500 MW fast breeder reactors by 2020, two of which could be set up at Kalpakkam.


Bharat Defence Kavach coverage

How Many Lives does Coal Energy and Oil Energy Have ?

Ken Silverstein at Forbes asks "How Many Lives Does Nuclear Energy Have ?"

“The nuclear disaster in Japan should have put the brakes on new plants in the United States,” says Lou Zeller, with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

The Fukushima nuclear plants were damaged by a 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed. There would have been no problems at the nuclear plants if there was no earthquake and tsunami. No one was killed by any radiation at the Fukushima plants. There were two workers killed by falling equipment caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

Let us review some historical incidents and issues with coal. Coal still provides 50% of the electricity in the US and the world.

Smog related deaths from coal and oil

There are also atmospheric inversions like the London Fog (killed 14,000 in 1952) which continue to happen on a smaller scale. The London Fog killed the equivalent of over one third of the deaths of the 9 month German bombing Blitz of London. The Blitz killed 40,000 over 9 months. The London Fog killed 14,000 over two weeks. The people suffocated.

Photos and descriptions of the killer smog fog are here
By nightfall on Friday 5 December the smothering fog thickened and visibility in most of London dropped to a few metres. During the next day, the sun was too weak and low in the sky to make much of an impression on the fog and that night, and on the Sunday and Monday nights, it again thickened. In most of London, it was almost impossible for pedestrians, totally disorientated through lack of familiar landmarks, to find their way home.

On the Isle of Dogs, almost surrounded by the Thames, visibility was occasionally reported to be nil – the fog was so dense that people could not see their own feet.

Hospitals were soon filled with patients suffering from acute respiratory diseases and, almost un-noticed, deaths in the city began to mount. No one noticed at first until undertakers started to run out of coffins and florists were likewise running out of flowers. The very ill weren’t helped by ambulances, searching in vain for victims and clanging their bells frantically, unable to extricate themselves from the snail-paced traffic jams.

The London smog, compared with a normal fog or even other urban smogs, was especially lethal because it contained high quantities of sulphur oxides (from the cheap sulphurous coal) that reacted with the moisture in the air to produce a dilute, but lung-corrosive, sulphuric acid mist. The killer brew, to some people, triggered massive inflammation of the lungs – in other words thousands of people died almost through suffocation.

There was also the London Killer fog of 1956 that killed over 1000 people. (a separate air pollution incident four years after the 1952 air pollution.

1948, October 30–31, Donora, PA: 20 died, 600 hospitalized, thousands more stricken. Lawsuits were not settled until 1951.
1953, November, New York: Smog kills between 170 and 260 people.
1954, October, Los Angeles: heavy smog shuts down schools and industry for most of the month.
1963, New York: blamed for 200 deaths
1966, New York: blamed for 169 deaths

160 deaths – Smog (London, December 12–15, 1991) (Car exhaust related)

When a latter-day smog enveloped London in 1991 the number of deaths shot up by 10 per cent, according to an unpublished report for the Department of Health. The figures suggest that the smog killed about 160 people. The episode presents the first direct evidence of deaths from air pollution in Britain for more than 30 years and has forced the government to order a review of its air quality guidelines.

The 1991 and other events show that pollution events are not just related to the history of before 1970.

For oil : December 2005, schools and public offices had to close in Tehran, Iran and 1600 people were taken to hospital, in a severe smog blamed largely on unfiltered car exhaust


February 19, 2012

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 92 - high temperature gas reactor for industrial purposes

The carnival of nuclear energy 92 is up at the ANS Nuclear cafe

Idaho Samizdat has coverage on the Areva high temperature reactor selected for the next generation reactor project

According to the >a href="http://nuclear.gov/HTGCR/overview.html" target=blank>U.S. Department of Energy, every 750 MWt of installed HTGR capacity will offset 1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year when compared to a similarly sized natural gas plant.

For the NGNP Alliance, choice of the Areva design, a reactor outlet temperature of 750C provides sufficient heat to produce conventional steam temperatures of 400-550C for applications like oil refinery distillation and chemical processing.

Southworth said the primary heat is carried from the reactor in a closed loop by helium and the steam is super heated but not super critical.

The NGNP Alliance is developing a regulatory strategy to identify key issues related to getting a license from the NRC. Southworth said the combination of licensing and building a first-of-a-kind unit could take 10-12 years to get one operating at a customer site. He estimates that with start-up schedules, the first customer would be reaping benefits from the technology in the time frame of 2024-2027. it could be sooner depending on the outcomes of design and regulatory processes and actual construction of a first-of-a-kind unit.

The (High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor) HTGR is a inherently safe, modular, underground helium-cooled nuclear reactor technology, The reactor and the nuclear heat supply system (NHSS) is comprised of three major components: the reactor, a heat transport system and a cross vessel that routes the helium between the reactor and the heat transport system

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Dense Plasma Focus Fusion Energy Flow

Here is the energy flow Lawrenceville Plasma physics is trying to achieve with their nuclear fusion project. they are still 10,000 to 100,000 times too low on their power generation




Local electrical potential detection of DNA by nanowire–nanopore sensors

Nature Nanotechnology - Nanopores could potentially be used to perform single-molecule DNA sequencing at low cost and with high throughput. Although single base resolution and differentiation have been demonstrated with nanopores using ionic current measurements direct sequencing has not been achieved because of the difficulties in recording very small (~pA) ionic currents at a bandwidth consistent with fast translocation speeds. Here, we show that solid-state nanopores can be combined with silicon nanowire field-effect transistors to create sensors in which detection is localized and self-aligned at the nanopore. Well-defined field-effect transistor signals associated with DNA translocation are recorded when an ionic strength gradient is imposed across the nanopores. Measurements and modelling show that field-effect transistor signals are generated by highly localized changes in the electrical potential during DNA translocation, and that nanowire–nanopore sensors could enable large-scale integration with a high intrinsic bandwidth.


Images of representative devices. a. Low resolution TEM image of the central SiNx membrane part of a nanowire-nanopore chip. Scale bar = 20 μm. The central bright rectangle is the suspended SiNx membrane area with nanowire-nanopore FETs. Dark lines on the membrane are metal contacts. Yellow arrows point to the source and drain contact of a nanowire-nanopore FET (not visible in gap between two contacts). b. Optical image of the device side of the SiNx membrane chip. Image size = 1.6 mm × 1.6 mm. The central bright rectangle is the suspended SiNx membrane and bright stripes are metal lines connecting FET to the large metal wirebonding pads visible on the edges of this image. c. Photograph of a home-made PCB chip carrier with a SiNx membrane chip glued on. PCB board size = 4 cm × 4 cm. The central dark part is the SiNx membrane chip. Bright metal lines on the chip carrier are copper, which are used to interface the devices to outside instrumentation. A few wire bonding wires are visible between the chip and copper lines. d. Photograph of a PCB chip carrier with assembled PDMS chambers.